VILLAGES OF THE INLAND
Messaria. It is at the centre of the island, just 3.5 km. away from Fira. It is estimated that there was a settlement here since the 17th century. In the 19th century, Messaria was the hub of the Santorini industrial development. Some of the old houses and underground rock-hewn buildings still survive. In the village you will see the ruins of the old Markezinis knitting factory, as well as the mansions of Markezinis, Saliveros and Georgios Emmanuel Argyros. This mansion belonged to the local landowner and wine merchant Argyros and is considered one of the most noteworthy contemporary monuments of Santorini. Today it houses the Argyros Mansion museum (www.argyrosmansion.com). The people of Messaria were educated and many excelled in arts and sciences. The village is lively all year round, and there are several shops, restaurants, super markets, pharmacies. You will also come across a number of street vendors selling practically everything. Overall Messaria may not be a picturesque village, but it is a real crossroads: from here, you can get to the airport, Exo and Mesa Gonia, Kamari, Pyrgos, Athinios, or Akrotiri.
Megalochori. It is located SW of Pyrgos. It is mentioned in written sources since the 17th century. Its old mansions and houses are built in the local architectural style, protected by big walls for the fear of pirates. There are also underground kánaves (wineries) and picturesque churches with elegant belfries, such as Isodia tis Theotokou (the Presentation of the Virgin Mary) and Aghioi Anargyroi. The soil around Megalohori has always been fertile so there were many vineyards and the residents made money off winemaking. If you want to try the local wines you can visit the wineries of Gavalas and Boutaris. The beaches near Megalohori are Thermi and Plaka (accessible mainly by boat), Vlyhada, White and Red.
Karterados. The 19th-century rich captains’ village, is just 2 km. south of Fira. The area is considered to have been inhabited since the 17th century, and the original buildings were rock-hewn underground. Its name comes from the Greek word karteri (ambush point), possibly because locals ambushed pirates here. Karterados is split in two: the main village, and Vounitsa. The old settlement is quite impressive with the rock-hewn houses flanking a dried-up stream and their roofs at the level of the asphalt road.
Vothonas. It is 3.3 km away from Fira, next to Messaria. It’s a farming village built on both sides of a gorge, which is about 5 km long, where two smaller gorges meet. The village architecture is very interesting, with underground houses hewn into the walls of a gorge. The settlement is a combination of built and open spaces and structures both cut in the ground or built above it. The bottom of the valley was the main circulation axis. From it started narrow rising paths that led to dwellings placed higher. In Vothonas you will notice several churches, but the most impressive one lies outside the settlement. It is the rock hewn church of Panagia Trypa (Virgin Mary in the Hole), or Panagia Sergena, celebrated every year on the 2nd of February with large festivities. This remote church was used by locals as refuge during the Turkish rule. At the time, they used to climb up there using a wooden ladder, which was pulled up afterwards to prevent access by their enemies. Panagia Trypa (Virgin Mary in the Hole) must have gotten its name from the small window. On the outside it looks like a one metre wide hole, from which a helical path dug in the volcanic rock reaches the interior.
Emporeio. It is 12 km. away from Fira and has an amazing medieval hub which is worth discovering. The Emporeio Kasteli (castle) was one of the five fortified Santorini settlements; walking at its narrow alleys you will realize this is a small labyrinth. The alleys are just wide enough for a person to go by and the staircases are climbing almost vertically up to miniature balconies. There are doors in a row, overhead bridges between houses, arches, domes - all characterized by the plasticity of the volcanic material.
Exo Gonia. The name means Outer Corner. In old maps it is also indicated as Apano Gonia (Upper Corner). It is 8 km away from Fira, near Pyrgos and Episkopi Gonia. It is built on a hillside and has some old houses and beautiful churches. Enjoy the spectacular view from Aghios (St) Charalambos.
Episkopi (Mesa) Gonia. This village is 6 km away from Fira, near Exo Gonia and Kamari. The settlement suffered extensive damage in the 1956 earthquake, and was subsequently abandoned by its people, who moved to Kamari. It was known for its wine production and had several wineries. Before the 1956 earthquake it had churches and mansions. The winery of Mosiniore (Catholic Bishop of Santorini) was an interesting one. It was a large structure with six domes in line. The most important attraction in the village is the Byzantine church of Koimisi tis Theotokou (the Assumption of Virgin Mary), or Panagia Episkopi, or Kira Piskopis, and that is why the village is also called Episkopi Gonia. It is the most important Byzantine monument on the island. The initial church was a three-aisled early Christian basilica and was transformed into a cruciform church. Later on, two chapels were added.
Foinikia. This picturesque village is very close to Oia. It was inhabited by farmers growing grapes, or working in the valley (Baxedes). It used to have 150-200 old wineries called kánaves, which stopped operating around 1960. Nowadays, some of them have been refurbished, along with a few of the traditional houses. One of the best spots to admire Foinikia and its surroundings is the yard of Aghia Matrona church, built in 1859.